Let's Get Sleep Savvy

"A Well-Spent Day Brings Happy Sleep"
                    - Leonardo DaVinci

Healthy sleeping habits often referred to as Sleep Hygiene, are essential to our overall well being. Getting enough sleep, between 6 and 9 hours per night, can make a big difference in your quality of life.  A lack of sleep can lead to depression while the correct amount of sleep can help us feel luminous and mentally strong.  Research shows us that sleep is imperative to our complete health and has a powerful effect on the immune system.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep helps your body support growth and development, repairs blood vessels, maintains a healthy balance of hormones that make you feel full or hungry and controls your blood sugar levels. Moreover, sleep plays a vital role in rebuilding damaged muscle, regulating our body temperature and hormones, and cardiovascular health. 

Research also shows that getting the proper amount of sleep can improve learning.   During REM sleep, our minds consolidate and store long-term memories and can edit existing memories to integrate new ones. In addition to helping us learn and form memories, sleeping is also important for keeping our brain clear of toxins. When we go to sleep, our brain's cellular makeup changes to allow cerebrospinal fluid to flush out harmful chemicals. This can play a role in protecting us from neurological disorders and maintaining a healthy brain.   

Here are 10 tips for good sleep practices:   

  1. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. Going to bed and waking up at the same time (even on weekends) helps to regulate our bodies clock.  It helps us fall asleep  and stay asleep for the night.
  2. Practice a relaxing nighttime ritual — play music you enjoy, meditate or take a candlelit bath. Creating a routine that is conducted away from bright lights helps separate sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety that make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  3. Get your body moving — exercise daily with vigor being best but light exercise is better than nothing. Remaining sedentary and lack of activity is not helpful for sleep.
  4. Room Vibes — your sleep environment is best designed to establish the conditions you need for sleep. A cooler temperature, between 60 and 70 degrees is ideal.  Quiet is key; noises and other distractions including your mate's snoring can cause sleep disruptions. Try blackout curtains, eyeshades, earplugs, humidifiers, fans and/or white noise machines.
  5. Comfort is king — a comfortable, supportive mattress and pillows are key.  These items do have a shelf life.  Even a quality mattress needs to retire after a decade of hard work.  Making your room visually appealing invites sleep.  Keep your room allergen free is another xxx. 
  6. Keep your circadian rhythms in check - avoid bright light in the evening ad expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.  This will keep your circadian rhythms in check.   
  7. Eat Light at Night - avoid heavy meals in the evening as well as alcohol, cigarettes, and caffeine all of which can disrupt sleep.  Large and spice meals can cause indigestion making you uncomfortable.  Finish any large meal at least two to three hours before bedtime.  If you are still hungry try a light snack one hour prior to bed.   
  8. Chill out — your body needs to wind down and it takes time to shift into sleep mode. This means turning off your electronic devices.  Laptops and phones emit light that activates the brain.  If you wake up in the middle of the night, avoid re-engaging with electronics.  Research shows that reading a book for even six minutes reduces stress by 68%, clearing the mind and preparing the body for sleep.   
  9. Sleep avoidance  — if you can’t sleep go into another room and do something relaxing before bed. Work materials, computers, and televisions are best left out of the sleeping environment.  Using your bed only for sleep and sex helps strengthen the association between bed and sleep.  Omit activities that might have an association with anxiety about sleeping from your bedtime routine.  Creating a sleep diary where you can record your sleep and evaluate common patterns and issues that cause poor sleeping habits could be helpful.